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Biochips Ahoy
Jamais Cascio, 10 Dec 03

Arizona State University researchers have developed a new model "biochip" -- an all-in-one laboratory on a chip able to detect and analyze microorganisms and chemicals in the field. While such chips have been built before, the ASU design cuts the price and size. The plastic biochip measures 12x6 cm, and only 2mm thick.

Technology Review notes: "The chip performs all the work needed to test from a raw sample like whole blood, including target cell capture using immunomagnetic beads, cell preconcentration, purification and lysis, and DNA multiplication and detection. The researchers' prototype detected a disease-causing E. coli bacteria in a sample of rabbit whole blood in 3.5 hours."

Moving from R&D to the field may take several more years.

Cheap, powerful bio-detection and analysis chips are key to ongoing measurements of environmental conditions, and to monitor biological or chemical hazards. They can also aid in grappling with climate change. The cheaper the chips are, and the easier they are to produce, the more they can be used, thereby letting us understand how environments are -- or aren't -- functioning. As one of the hallmarks of climate change is the increase in unexpected shifts in local and regional ecosystems, the more we can monitor environmental status, the better chance we'll have of reacting effectively.

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I apologize for the ban pun in the title of this posting.

Posted by: Jamais Cascio on 10 Dec 03

Whatever happened to the guy with the jellyfish-brain-on-a-chip robot? The one that responded to lights and such by jerking back and forth in a horrible Mengele-esque way? If you could do that with the little strip of neural tissue at the top of your nose you could probably do this a whole lot easier and better. I've been googling for that thing all week and haven't found it . . . anyone else remember it?

Posted by: Ben on 10 Dec 03

"jellyfish-brain-on-a-chip... anyone else remember it?"

No, but I'm intrigued... and somewhat disturbed that I read that, at first glance, as some sort of appetizer.

Posted by: Alex Steffen on 10 Dec 03

this guy thinks biochips are the next big thing!

and in the comments this guy heartily agress :D

"I am very interested in studies of the genetics of mental disorders because they take advantage of the accumulation of vast amounts of knowledge about human genetic structure and genetic diversity. The next simple-minded thing to do is to identify gene variants that influence particular behavioral propensities, and that's going to be doable in the next 5, 10, or 20 years. The basic sequence of the human genome is known. It's known that there are a small number of very common gene variants. What we need to do is correlate the various gene variants with various behavioral propensities. And as the ways of crunching genetic data are improved, as it becomes cheaper and cheaper to take DNA samples from large numbers of people and look at all the variants in each individual person, and as computers are available to integrate all that data, we're going to learn a lot about the genetic propensities towards different kinds of human behaviors. That's a certainty; that's definitely going to happen."

"The hot new technologies that psychiatric scientists are now using include not only genetics but also brain imaging. Brain imaging has brought another dimension to studies of human brain functions because you can, in real time, look at brain regions that are active in certain kinds of mental processes, and can look at differences in different peopleĀ—that is, people with different conditions or propensitiesĀ—to see in real time how their brains might be operating. There are going to be opportunities to use knowledge about specific gene variants that can be tied to this imaging, so that one can look at more than just measures like behavior that you assess with conversation or questionnaires. It will be possible to correlate knowledge about genetic variation with knowledge about how specific brains operate in specific circumstances, as looked at with various kinds of functional magnetic resonance imaging. Right now our ideas about mental disorders are mainly based on interviews, questionnaires, and observations of behavior. Being able to look at what's going on inside the human brain, once considered to be an inscrutable black box, is turning out to be quite informative."

Posted by: smerkin on 11 Dec 03

interesting links, smerkin -- thanks!

Posted by: Jamais Cascio on 11 Dec 03



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